20-08-14-globant-ceo-sees-a-wearable-future-marc-ambasna-jones
Business Management

Globant CEO Sees a Wearable Future

Last month Globant became the first Latin American software company to launch a public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. It was a landmark moment, not just for the 11-year-old Buenos Aires, Argentina-based business that has offices across the globe, but also for the Latin American IT industry.

Globant currently has a market capitalisation of about $400m but what’s next for the business and what can its success do for the region as a whole?

According to the World Economic Forum’s recent Global Competitiveness Report, Argentina sits alongside the likes of Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Poland, Uruguay and Russia as transitioning from an efficiency-driven economy to an innovation-driven one. Argentina’s recent battles with hedge funds over its historic debt may have dented a little confidence in the region but the WEF’s stats suggest that Latin America is developing with “a projected growth rate of 3 percent for 2013 and 3.4 percent for 2014, outperforming other regions in the world, especially advanced economies”.

The need for innovation and technology are recurring terms levelled at all countries but for the eloquent and affable founder and CEO of Globant, Martin Migoya, they are also principles on which his business was founded. It sounds a little clichéd, perhaps, but the breadth of the company’s work and the success of its share price appear to back this up.

Clearly delighted with the early success of the IPO, Migoya seems to be keeping his feet firmly on the ground. Migoya is proud of where the company was founded but determined to point out it is a global and not just Argentinian business, he is modest when talking about its success. He mentions innovation a lot, talks about staff loyalty, culture and skills, and openly admits the company environment is more Google than traditional IT services business. There are worse role models for cool places to work.

Q: Your Endeavor accelerator profile leads with a quote: “I saw an opportunity to transform Argentina into the next IT powerhouse.” How far down that road is Argentina to achieving that, following the Globant IPO?
MM: Our dream was not just Argentina really, it was to make Latin America a powerhouse, which is absolutely possible. We are just scratching the surface. We are one step forward but still in the very early days of development. The potential before Globant was very big and now it’s bigger.

Q. Has your success inspired other businesses in the region?
MM: I am not sure whether we have inspired but there are many technology companies in Argentina and Latin America, many of which are focused on the internal market but Globant is probably the biggest, if not only, company doing what we do. I think we are unique.

Q. Have you seen a shift in entrepreneurial culture in Latin America? Does the reality support the statistics?
MM: There has been a significant growth in entrepreneurial activity but more importantly a development and maturing of the entrepreneurial ecosystem which is enabling businesses to not just start but grow significantly. There is so much potential here.

Q. Argentina emerged from a difficult economy 10 years ago and a new debt crisis seems to be emerging as a result of the US Supreme Court ruling. How important is building a solid IT intelligence and capability base to the future stability of the economy?
MM: Very important. There are many businesses here that can grow and there is lots of talent, IT skills. So I think the technology industry is very important.

Q. What was your initial idea for Globant and what was your first project?
MM: In the early days when Globant was an idea, we realised there was a huge talent pool in South America for IT skills and that perhaps we could deliver IT services in a novel, innovative way. When we set up the company then it was all down to execution, being smarter with our work but also with our employees and working environment. This led to our first relationships with customers, with Lastminute.com for example, and we set out with a goal from the start, to create a software services business for the world, not just for Latin America.

Q. How important was this statement of being a global business in attracting and keeping talent?
MM: Very. We quickly started exporting software but we were importing opportunities from Europe and other parts of the world, for our staff so there was little reason to move away for work, to pursue opportunities in the US or Europe. Also right from the start we wanted to create an innovative culture for employees. We knew how services companies operated so we tried to innovate and make Globant a more attractive place to work, with a culture that is more similar to a Google than any outsourcing company from around the world. We have been very focused on creating this culture and this culture is our operating system. [See Life at Globant]

Q. What do you mean by this?
MM: We have a set of core values of course – think big, constantly innovate, be a team player and so on – but this is mounted on top of wider innovation practices that run throughout the business. We like to say that Globant is where engineering, innovation and design meet scale. We have to do this to help our customers create solutions that engage with their consumers. So the culture is connected to the work, it’s what drives our innovation-as-a-service, for example.

Q. Is that selling ideas? Do companies come to you with scoped-out projects or do they just come with a problem that needs solving?
MM: Yes we get a lot of that. We still get some projects already scoped out but increasingly projects evolve and take a different direction. You have to be able to cope with that, especially as the project evolution can be very fast. We now tend to start with the idea and have a continuous creation process, working closely with customers. It’s a good test of our skills.

Q. Talking of skills, you mentioned reversing the local ‘brain drain’ but is Globant attracting talent from other countries now?
MM: Yes of course. We have people from the US, Spain, UK, Germany, Brazil… many countries. We are a global company now and people move around within the company too.

Q. You spent some time in Europe and seemed to have gained valuable experience at Origin and Repsol-YPF. How important was this in the development of Globant? What did you learn and should all budding entrepreneurs build experience before setting up on their own?
MM: Very valuable for me and Globant but I don’t think it’s necessary as you see many entrepreneurs, young entrepreneurs that have been very successful without the experience. But you need to understand the business sector fully, to know from the inside what is needed, what you are disrupting, for example. I would say selling to businesses is very different to selling to consumers. You need to understand the processes more if selling to businesses. That came from experience.

Q. What is the next big challenge for Globant, given your successful IPO?
MM: We are still growing the business. Everything has always been about the long term and nothing has changed. The IPO means a lot of course. It’s a stamp of approval of our abilities for what we have done to date and what we are going to do in the future.

Q. What plans do you have for the future? 
MM: We need to continue what we are doing but always look for new growth. Wearables is where I see a lot of growth happening. Traditional device applications – PCs, mobile and tablets – they are overcrowded markets now. So we see some applications being extracted from these devices and put into specific wearable hardware but also devices to solve specific problems such as the Amazon Dash [shopping scanner]. Can you do this with a phone? Yes of course but there is friction here in terms of ease of use. The Dash makes this particular job easier than using a similar app on a mobile. So many things like this, smart watches for example, will continue to emerge, changing the way we live and work with technology. This is why we created a specific studio at Globant, the Wearables and Internet of Things Studio, so we are ready.

 

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a freelance writer and communications consultant that has written about technology trends and issues for over 24 years for national newspapers, consumer and business magazines. He can be found on Twitter @mambjo.

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Marc Ambasna-Jones

Marc Ambasna-Jones is a UK-based freelance writer and media consultant and has been writing about business and technology since 1989.

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